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Red-Footed Tortoise

Nicole Cosgrove

July 14, 2021

Red-Footed Tortoises have become one of the more popular exotic pets over the last couple of years. They are really attractive and low maintenance, making them a perfect exotic pet for beginners or intermediate tortoise owners.

In this guide, we are going to provide you everything you need to know for taking care of a Red-Footed Tortoise. Even though these animals are very low maintenance, there are still some things you need to know before getting one of your own.

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Quick Facts About Red-Footed Tortoise

Species Name: Red-Footed Tortoise
Family: Tortoise
Care Level: Beginner to intermediate
Temperature: 80 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit, basking spot between 95 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperament: Scavengers; hide, burrow, and bask a lot
Color Form: Dark brown, black, or gray scales with vibrant red, orange, or yellow scales around the legs
Lifespan: 30 – 50 years
Size: 10 – 16 inches, 30 lbs.
Diet: Leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and pellets or animal proteins
Minimum Tank Size: 48 x 72 inches
Tank Set-Up: Thick substrate with hiding locations
Compatibility: Beginner tortoise owners
red footed tortoises
Image Credit: zoosnow, Pixabay

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Red-Footed Tortoise Overview

As you probably figured from their name, Red-Footed Tortoises are named for the bright scales on their legs. On top of being very attractive, the tortoises are easy to maintain, flourish in captivity, and have a pretty relaxed temperament.

These tortoises are naturally found throughout South and Central America. Because they are found over such a wide body of land, they flourish in a variety of environments, ranging from wet forests to dry savannahs.

Because of their attractive appearance and easygoing nature, they are one of the top tortoises within the reptile trade. Beginners and experienced tortoise owners alike love watching these relaxed and easygoing creatures. Not to mention, they can last for decades in captivity.

As with any other tortoise, the most difficult part of owning a Red-Footed Tortoise is providing it the proper habitat inside your home. As long as you set up the tank properly, your tortoise should be happy and healthy for many years to come.

How Much Do Red-Footed Tortoises Cost?

Because Red-Footed Tortoises are so highly sought after and only found in very specific parts of the world, these tortoises can be a bit pricey, but they are nowhere near as expensive as other tortoise species.

You can expect to pay between $150 and $500 for the tortoise. The older the tortoise is, the more expensive it will be. This price does not include the cost for the tank, food, and care of your tortoise either.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

As we’ve already mentioned, one reason people love Red-Footed Tortoises is because they are easy going and relaxed. They do not tend to be aggressive. Instead, they are scavengers who love to look around, burrow, and bask in their basking spot.

Although these tortoises do not like being held that much, they aren’t as skittish as other tortoises. Just remember to be gentle and not make any sudden noises or movements around them, and your tortoise will be really happy.

Appearance & Varieties

Red-Footed Tortoises are very easy to identify because of their unique look. Just like every other tortoise, its body is completely covered in thick scales. The majority of the scales on the body are dark in color, including colors like brown, black, and gray.

Around their legs, you will also see a pop of red, orange, or yellow. The exact shade of the scales will depend on the region that the tortoise was taken from. The peaks of the tortoise’s shell are also much lighter than the rest of the scales. These peaks are typically pale yellow, creating a 3-dimensional design on the shell.

As for its head, Red-Footed Tortoises have a flat top, and their faces tend to be pale yellow as well. Oftentimes, the scales on their face match the lighter colorations found on the rest of the body.

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How to Take Care of Red-Footed Tortoises

For most people, caring for a Red-Footed Tortoise is really easy and low maintenance. Once you set up the tank properly, there is very little you need to do to keep the tortoise happy. However, you must be careful to ensure the tank you provide is suitable for this beautiful tortoise.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tortoises need a tank enclosure that is 48 x 72 inches. This sized vivarium will provide your tortoise a lot of room to scavenge and explore. Even though tortoises are not particularly adventuresome or active, they do need a lot of room to move.

It’s important that you create the tank so that it mimics the tortoise’s natural habitat. You want the habitat to include thick substrate made from cypress bark, coconut coir, or topsoil mix free from additives. It’s important that you layer the substrate pretty thick because these tortoises are great burrowers.

You also need to add live or artificial plants. These plants will provide shade and areas for the tortoise to hide in. Make sure not to select any plants that are harmful or toxic in case the tortoise should eat it.

In the wild, Red-Footed Tortoises like to shelter between roots. Add a small shelter so that the tortoise has an opportunity to hide inside the tank. Select a hiding box that is large enough for the tortoise to get into and turn in to exit.

Aside from the contents of the tank, you also need to keep it at a specific temperature and lighting. Tortoises are cold-blooded animals, and they have evolved to survive in pretty harsh temperatures.

One side of the tank should include a basking area that is between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other side of the tank, keep the temperature regulated between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide UV lighting inside the tank as well to keep the tortoise healthy despite not being in direct sunlight.

Water, both for consumption and humidity, is just as important as lighting and temperature. The tank needs to be between 50% and 70% humidity. Some tortoises flourish in humidity is high as 80%.

Keep a water dish within the habitat. This dish helps to maintain the humidity, but it also provides a soaking area for the tortoise. Make sure the dish is wide and shallow so that the tortoise has easy access to and from it.

Do Red-Footed Tortoises Get Along with Other Pets?

Tortoises are natural prey animals, making them unsuitable to house with other pets. Especially keep your tortoise away from dogs and other animals that may view the tortoise as a play toy. Double check that the tank is escape proof so that the animals can’t get in and the tortoise can’t get out.

If you get a large enough enclosure, you can house Red-Footed Tortoises with one another. In the wild, these tortoises often share hiding spots with one another, meaning you can have more than one inside the tank at once.

What to Feed Your Red-Footed Tortoise

Just like us, Red-Footed Tortoises need a lot of nutrients and vitamins to survive. About 60% of their food should consist of dark leafy greens, whereas 15% should come from vegetables and another 15% should come from fruit.

The remaining 10% of their diet should be from pellets or animal protein. It is important to keep high protein sources to a minimum because too much protein can lead to neurological issues and shell diseases in tortoises. With this in mind, you especially need to focus on the vegetables and greens.

To ensure your tortoise is healthy for many years to come, sprinkle a calcium and multivitamin supplement over your tortoise’s food. Younger tortoises will need more supplements than older ones.

Keeping Your Red-Footed Tortoise Healthy

Red-Footed Tortoises tend to thrive in captivity, but they certainly can develop diseases if they’re not provided a healthy habitat or diet.

It’s most important to ensure the tortoise’s enclosure maintains adequate humidity levels, temperature levels, and cleanliness. Every day, spot clean the enclosure, but heavy clean the tank once a month.

Provide your tortoise with a healthy diet as well. Shell rot and metabolic bone disease can occur if the tortoise doesn’t get enough vitamins. Calcium supplements will help keep these diseases at bay, as will UV lighting.

Breeding

Most experts agree that you should only breed Red-Footed Tortoises that have been raised in captivity. This puts less strain on the wild population, and it allows you to control the gene pool a bit more.

Unlike other animals, tortoises have a bit more difficulty reproducing. It is best to have a breeding group, which includes two males and two females at minimum, though most experts advise having more than four tortoises.

By having two males, the tortoises will compete with one another, increasing the chances of reproducing on their own. Although having a single pair of tortoises can lead to reproduction, it is much less likely.

During the reproduction process, males may bite the females’ necks. Occasionally, these bites can be serious. It’s best to have a veterinarian on call in the case that any lacerations are serious.

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Are Red-Footed Tortoises Suitable For You?

Red-Footed Tortoises are a great tortoise variety for just about any interested owner. Because of their docile nature, low maintenance, and beautiful appearance, they truly are one of the best tortoises for captivity.

Just make sure that you provide your Red-Footed Tortoise the proper habitat and diet. Ensuring that the habitat is suitable for your tortoise and keeping it clean will largely prevent most diseases from occurring, allowing your Red-Footed Tortoise to live with you for decades.


Featured Image Credit: Brenda Carson, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.